The types of insulation: an expert guide
Given the range of options when it comes to the types of insulation available today, it might be difficult to identify your ideal choices. The factors that may influence your decision include initial costs, energy conservation and even whether or not you can perform your own installation. You might also be interested in which options provide better fire safety.
With all these unknowns and the questions connected to them, it’s normal to be uncertain of where to begin. Luckily, the Experts on JustAnswer are here to weigh in! We polled Experts in the Home Improvement space with questions about insulation in order to glean insights about types of insulation industry pros feel most confident about.
Not every question will have a single definitive answer, but you may find that the information presented here clears up some of your confusion and allows you to make the best possible decision in your search for the right type of insulation to suit your needs.
Understanding R-value and its role in insulation
R-value, which is an insulator’s capacity for heat flow resistance, should always be taken into consideration when you’re comparing insulation options. Higher R-values translate to a superior ability to insulate, and they are determined by an insulator’s type, density and thickness. As for the R-value you should be looking for, your ideal match will depend on factors like the type of budget you’re working with, as well as the climate where you live.
Which type of insulation can provide the highest R-value?
Expert consensus: Given enough space, any type of insulation could provide the desired R-value. The thickness of the application determines the material’s ability to insulate, but in cases where space is limited, sprayed foam supplies the highest possible R-value. It’s vital to remember that most sprayed foams contain chemicals that can corrode metal and produce toxic fumes if not installed correctly.
Do homeowners in warmer climates still need to worry about R-value?
Expert Consensus: 100% of experts polled agreed that all homeowners, regardless of where they live, should pay attention to the effectivenes of their insulation. The same way a higher R-value keeps heat from escaping your home when it’s cold outside, it also prevents the heat outside from intruding in warmer climates. A reduction of heat transferred between indoors and outdoors will benefit a home regardless of the outside temperature.
Which types of insulation is the most cost-effective option given its R-value, initial cost, and potential for long-term savings?
Expert Consensus: For existing homes, the cost of an insulation type is largely connected to its ease of installation. In these cases, the accessibility of loose fill insulation makes it arguably the most affordable option. However, batts and blankets (specifically with fiberglass batts) hold up better than loose-fill over time.
Finding the best insulation types for your home’s various parts
Heat will flow towards cooler areas until the temperature difference disappears. This is why homeowners tend to lose so much warm air during the winter – it moves from comfortable living areas to unheated parts of homes, as well as to the outdoors. Heat can also pass through interior walls, ceilings and floors, and once it’s gone your heating system will then be forced to work harder in order to replace it.
Properly insulating the different parts of your house will help you resist this heat flow, keeping more of the warm air where you want it. This not only makes your living space more comfortable, but it also helps you save on your monthly utility costs. Of course, different parts of your home’s structure will sometimes require different types of insulation in order to meet your desired R-values.
Which type of insulation is best suited for attics?
Expert consensus: Loose-fill insulation is recommended for attics in temperate climates; it is also the most inexpensive option for this part of the house. Some people have been known to use batts, but they don’t fill up the necessary space as effectively as loose-fill or blown-in. Additionally, although spray foam didn’t make the final cut here, it is a great option for people willing to spend more for the sake of saving on energy costs down the line. It’s also a particularly good fit for colder climates.
Which type of insulation is best suited for existing walls?
Expert Consensus: Loose-fill or blown-in is the best option for adding insulation to existing walls with the least possible amount of demolition and repair. It can be installed through a much smaller opening, meaning minimal damage to the walls you’re hoping to insulate. Batts and blankets are the ideal choice if you have access for installing them (or don’t mind the extra repairs you’ll need afterward).
Which type of insulation is best suited for floors and ceilings?
Expert consensus: Batts and blankets are recommended for underneath floors. For ceilings, including those beneath unconditioned attics, batts or blown-in insulation can be used. In homes with sub-floor heating or poured slab flooring, rigid foam board is a good option.
Identifying the best insulating materials for your needs
Your options don’t end with the various types of insulation you might choose for your home. They also include the insulating materials themselves, which can vary within each installation category. They range from bulky fibers to rigid boards of foam, and they all bring something unique to the table. The best possible insulator for you will depend on which qualities you’re looking for.
If given the option, which insulation material should be chosen over the other for superior fire safety and prevention qualities?
Expert consensus: Since fiberglass is made up of glass, it’s non-combustible without the need for any fireproofing or chemical treatments. As long as it’s installed properly, it will not pose any threat to fire safety. Rock and slag wool is made up of non-combustible fibers as well, and unless fiberglass, won’t melt in high heat. As such, there is no risk of it releasing toxic fumes in the event of a fire.
Does the type of insulating material make a difference when it comes to avoiding mold growth or pest infestations?
Expert consensus: 100% of polled experts agreed that it did make a difference. Sprayed foam is capable of sealing off walls, protecting them from the moisture that can develop through condensation in very cold conditions. This benefit, which helps reduce the risk of mold and mildew growth, can be applied to other types of insulation if sprayed foam is added to the other elements. For buyers looking for materials that are less inviting to pests like rodents, insulation with high paper or cellulose content should be avoided.
If given the option, which insulation material should be chosen over the others for its heat resistance and energy efficiency?
Expert consensus: This answer is reliant on a number of factors, such as whether or not you’re working on a new construction or an existing home, as well as the structure itself and its location. However, fiberglass still won the majority of the votes, as it traps pockets of air as a means for improving energy efficiency. Generally speaking, thermal insulation made of fiberglass can reduce energy costs in a residence by a significant amount over time. For specifics pertaining to your particular home and location, asking an Expert is the safest way to identify the best insulating material for your desired efficiency.
Looking into insulation types you can install yourself
Although factors like location and desired R-value will play significant roles in identifying the best insulation for your house, you might also be interested in how easy the various options are to install. If you’re hoping to save money by performing your own installation, you’ll need to select a variety of insulation that can be put in by someone who lacks professional expertise (unless you’re an experienced installer). Keep in mind that an insulation material’s full rated R-value will only be reached if it is installed properly. If it’s incorrectly administered, or overly compressed, it won’t work to its full capacity.
Which types of insulation can be installed without professional assistance?
Expert consensus: The benefits of sprayed foam and loose-fill insulation will be lost if the correct specialized equipment isn’t used for the installation. Beyond that, if an adequately trained professional provider isn’t used, you run the risk of the components being improperly mixed, leading to toxic vapors that could develop into a serious health hazard. Out of all the types of insulation you might choose from, batts and blankets is far and away the simplest to install.
Deciding on the best type of insulation for your needs is no small task given the importance of having a well insulated, efficient home. Luckily, these insights from the Experts on JustAnswer may help you navigate the uncertainties ahead. If you still have any questions about the ideal types of insulation for your house, don’t hesitate to ask on JustAnswer.com today!